Column: Dont let the cost of gas keep you at home

The cost of gasoline is enough to keep even the most addicted traveler off the road. 

My family and I recently got back from a long road trip to Disney World, by air, and when upon return I saw the gasoline prices I thought my brother was going to have to peel me up off the floor.

The cost for a tank of gas would have paid for a night at a hotel! Hello! Who can afford that? 

Summer vacations are an American institution and we should do everything we can to uphold our right to travel – OK, maybe I’ve been watching too much CNN. 

Although we would like to park our cars and rebel, if we want to travel it is inevitable that some driving is going to have to be done.

With today’s gas prices it is necessary to be frugal with vacation ideas. Maybe not driving so far away or traveling with someone to split the cost.

My suggestion is to go on a vacation where once you reach your destination you can park your car and leave it. Big cities with good mass transit systems and state or national parks both satisfy this requirement. 

Camping, which is totally not my thing, is an inexpensive option for family budgets. My brother and his wife take their kids a couple times a year and they love it.  

Camping activities do not require you to put a step inside of your car once you reach the campground, unless you need to get back in the car to hide from bears, snakes, mosquitoes or brothers wielding snakes. (You see where I get my love of camping).  You can swim, bike, hike … and I dunno, whatever else people do in the wilderness. 

Personally, the only hiking trail I’d like would have a coffee shop at the other end.   I could enjoy a hot latte and a blueberry muffin. The muffin can be organic, I’m not a nature hater.

My personal bias aside, camping is a truly all American past-time and smores always taste better by campfire.

Big cities are my choice for a no driving vacation … no snakes. The best east coast city for a family on a budget is Washington, D.C.

D.C. has an easily navigable subway system that can take you anywhere you need or want to go – no need to drive.

Staying outside of the city in either Maryland or Virginia is more economical for lodging, always consider that.

Most hotels offer shuttle service to the nearest subway station as a complimentary service. 

D.C. is an amazing family friendly vacation, good for more than one visit.

When I was a little girl and I heard about the Smithsonian, I pictured one building. Not! 

It is this amazing array of museums and galleries, 19 in all, and a zoo.  The two most popular museums for families are the National Museum of American History and the National Air and Space Museum both located on the Mall.  

The best part about all the Smithsonian  is that admission is free. Check out their Web site to plan your trip at gosmithsonian.com.

Don’t try to see them all in one trip. Pick a couple out that fit your family’s interests and save the rest for another time.

No trip to D.C. would be complete without seeing the monuments and memorials, maybe not all at once though. Kids get burned out easily on statues, as do some parents.

All of the gift shops at the monuments sell passports from the National Park Service for less than $10. Buy one.

There is a space for every National Park you go to. Each park has its own dated stamp for your book. D.C. has a stamp for each memorial and monument. My kids enjoyed collecting all the stamps. It’s a nice keepsake. 

The National Mall is a green space area, park if you will, located between the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol building lined on each side by the Smithsonian buildings. There are plenty of snack shops and even a carousel along the way. Walk slowly and enjoy it. 

The Mall is good for picnics and kite flying.  Yes, kite flying. Buy a cheap kite at the store and throw it in your suitcase. Take your kite up to the hill surrounding the Washington Monument – you won’t be the only one. 

It will provide a little time for you to sit and rest while your child runs up and down the hill trying to fly it. You can even help if you like, I rest. When the kids are done, toss it.      

Don’t let the cost of gas keep you home.  Get in your car and drive somewhere.  When you arrive ditch the car.

Most importantly, don’t forget to pack light and have fun!

Kristi Farrow is a travel writer and a customer service specialist at the Southeast Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

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